Smarter Living: Family Health

If you have a damp basement and are worried about mold, focus on the root of the problem first--fight the damp.  The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that dampness in homes (regardless of the presence of mold) has been linked scientifically to respiratory problems among inhabitants. Nasty things thrive in damp environments, including mold and certain kinds of bacteria that produce endotoxin, which causes powerful inflammatory reactions in the body. Try to find the source of the moisture and get rid of it. If there are no leaks in the foundation or obvious other sources, try a dehumidifier. It's best to keep the humidity below 60 percent, and with an inexpensive humidity monitor you can keep watch on levels in your basement.

If there is mold on permeable surfaces (such as carpets, drywall, furniture, etc.), the material will need to be removed safely and disposed of.  If the mold is on hard surfaces (wood studs, concrete), then it can be cleaned off with a wire brush and a 10 percent bleach solution. Studs should be sanded down as well. If the moldy area is larger than about three feet in diameter, get a professional to do the work, and make sure he or she is licensed and uses appropriate protection. If it's a small area, then you could probably do the cleanup, but wear an N95 respirator mask and coveralls, and dispose of them afterwards.

Many companies recommend testing for mold, which is fairly expensive if it’s done right. Testing can be useful for documenting the presence of mold if there is a dispute, but it’s often not necessary. If you detect dampness and see or smell mold, that’s enough information. Spending money on cleaning up the problem rather than measuring the mold is a better investment in your family’s health.

Learn More

EPA Brief Guide to Mold

last revised 1/31/2012

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